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April 21, 2014

Andrew Silow-Carroll: Passoverkill? Suggestions to make next year's seders even more culturally sensitive

Sara Israelsen Hartley: Seeking the Divine: An ancient connection in a new context

Christine M. Flowers: Priest's execution in Syria should be call to action

Courtnie Erickson: How to help kids accept the poor decisions of others

Lizette Borreli: A Glass Of Milk A Day Keeps Knee Arthritis At Bay

Lizette Borreli: 5 Health Conditions Your Breath Knows Before You Do

The Kosher Gourmet by Betty Rosbottom Coconut Walnut Bars' golden brown morsels are a beautifully balanced delectable delight

April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Jan. 27, 2006 /27 Teves, 5766

What's in a Divine Name?

By Rabbi David Aaron


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Secrets to a Religion of Love


“ And EL OHIM spoke to Moses and said unto him, 'I am Y HVH.' …say unto the children of Israel: I am Y HVH, ….and I will take you to Me for a people, I will be to you an EL OHIM: and you will know that I am Y HVH your EL OHIM. ”

                       — Exodus 14:2-7

Experiencing G-d as Y HVH
According to Jewish tradition the name Y HVH refers to G-d as the Compassionate One. G-d acts compassionately towards us when we are unworthy from the standpoint of justice. However, since we are unworthy G-d does not coddle us for our own sake but for His sake because we exist within G-d. This is similar to a father and son relationship. From the son's perspective he and his father are two separate beings. However, the father sees himself and his son as one. Although he respects his son as being other, he continues to experience the son as a part of himself. Therefore, the father loves the son with the same unconditional love that he has for himself. Sometimes parents give to their children not because the children deserve it but simply because they are their children — an extension of their own selves.

The attribute of compassion demonstrates that, ultimately, we are encompassed within G-d. In fact the Hebrew term for compassion — rachamim — is associated with the word rechem — which means "womb." From the perspective of Y HVH we exist within G-d as a fetus exists within the womb of its mother. And G-d loves us with the very love that He loves Himself because we exist within Him; we are a part of Him.

Rabbi Ovadiah Sforno, one of the great sages of Italian Jewry in the 15th century, explains the verse in the Book of Exodus "I am Y HVH" (1)to mean:


I am Y HVH, not only the Creator, but He who perpetuates existence, for existence has no substance or continuity except for that which emanates from Me, as it says 'And You perpetuate them all'(2) From all this, it follows that nothing can exist without His will.


The Nefesh HaChaim explains: (3) "All the worlds are as if naught, from the perspective of the name Y HVH."

When we recognize our absolute and continual dependence upon G-d (Y HVH), we realize that in and of ourselves we are nothing and we completely surrender ourselves to Him. We nullify any illusions of ourselves as if having a separate and independent reality. We understand that every move we make, and every breath we take is only possible because of His continued support and love. Every moment of our existence and every fiber of our being we owe to G-d. When we contemplate the meaning of the Y HVH we realize the absurdity of selfishness and the joy of selfless surrender.


When you experience G-d as Y HVH, but in a healthy way, then you will be selfless, humble, modest, generous, tolerant, forgiving, peaceful, tranquil, calm, easygoing, accepting etc.. You naturally let go and let G-d because you know that you don't exist independent of G-d and that all is in His hands. However, if you experience G-d as Y HVH, but in an unhealthy extreme way, then you will become self-effacing, self-doubting, meek, impersonal, lethargic, dependent, undisciplined, irresponsible, fatalistic, passive, unreliable, lackadaisical, etc. You feel like nothing because you believe that there is nothing but G-d. Subsumed in His overwhelming presence and totally obliterated by His light, you would never experience the joy of being in love. To be in love there has got be a "you" and there has got to be a "me" in order for us to experience the miraculous joy of we. Love cannot be manifest unless the oneness includes a significant other.

A religion, exclusively based on the Y HVH experience of G-d, could not be a religion of love, only a religion of total surrender. It would guide its devotees towards complete self abnegation — no striving and no-self. It would view our lives as totally deterministic. It would consider our categorizing minds as futile. And it would teach us to believe that the boundaries and borders of this world are mere illusions. It would also advocate a monastic ascetic lifestyle since any desire for physical pleasure is rooted in the delusion that the separate individual self is real.

A religion of love must include other perspectives and experiences of G-d to counterbalance the dangers of only experiencing G-d as Y HVH.

Experiencing G-d as A DONAI
According to Jewish law, one is not permitted to even utter the name Y HVH, pronouncing the name as it is written. Rather, the name is written Y HVH but is to be vocalized as A DONAI (translated as "my Lord" or "my Master"). The Talmud derives this principle from a verse in the Book of Exodus: (4)


"This is My name forever, this is My mentioning from generation to generation." Rabbi Akivah asks, "It is written, "My name", and yet also "My mentioning?" The Holy One Blessed Be He said, "Not as I am written I am called. I am written as Y HVH. However, I am to be called A DONAI." (5)


The Jerusalem Talmud notes that only the High Priest on the Day of Atonement would pronounce the name Y HVH while serving in the Holy of Holies. Although the public would hear its correct pronunciation, they would not move from the Temple Mount until they forgot it. This is also hinted in the verse: "This is My name forever." The Hebrew translation of the word "forever" is l'olam, which also means, "to conceal." Therefore, the verse can also be translated as: "This is My name to be concealed." (6)

The sages and mystics explain that the true meaning of the name Y HVH is too overwhelming and must be partially concealed. Its message must be diminished so as not to nullify all borders and distinctions of this physical world. You and I would be totally obliterated if we were exposed to the full experience of Y HVH, like the light of a candle in the light of the sun. Therefore, until we are ready for the ultimate experience of G-d's oneness we are only able to understand Y HVH as A DONAI, which (as noted earlier) simply means "my Master." A DONAI inspires only partial nullification and surrender. The name A DONAI also reminds us of the principle stated in Jewish law that everything the servant owns really belongs to his master.

As we mentioned earlier, when you experience G-d as Y HVH, you realize that there is nothing at all but G-d and you completely surrender every trace of self. However, when you experience G-d as A DONAI you experience yourself existing independent and apart from the Master. The experience of G-d as A DONAI inspires you to surrender only your sense of freedom and ownership. You aspire to serve the Master of the universe in every way — without question or challenge.

When you experience G-d as A DONAI, but in a healthy way, then you will become dutiful and servicing. Energized to fulfill G-d's will and committed to do His work on earth. You will be principled and disciplined. And since you understand that everything you have belongs to the Master you will be kindhearted and sharing.

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However, if you experience G-d as A DONAI, but in an unhealthy extreme way, then you will lack initiative; you are only able to do what G-d commands. You may be paralyzed at times when you are not sure what G-d wants from you. You may be intolerant of others who do not serve the Master. And you are likely to be neurotic because you are never able to perfectly serve G-d who is perfect.

A religion that is exclusively based on experiencing G-d as A DONAI, could not be a religion of love, only a religion of subservience. Although it would not preach total surrender and no-self, it would, however, teach sub-ordinance, submission, obedience and dutifulness. Even though you have an independent self and the freedom of choice, to be true to yourself and true to G-d you must surrender your freedom. You must aspire to only be G-d's humble servant and always seek to fulfill His will. You should disavow ownership of any property or possessions and dedicate it all to the service of G-d. A DONAI is your Master and you and everything you have is really His. Although you are not nothing you definitely own nothing.

As a servant you could love G-d, your Master. Unlike the extreme Y HVH experience, you do not feel subsumed or obliterated by G-d's overwhelming presence. But you do not fully experience the joy of being in love since you feel powerless in the presence of the Master of the universe; dwarfed by His almighty presence and completely subordinate to Him. You could never fathom the possibility of becoming a significant other to G-d in a loving relationship of mutual respect and partnership. Your relationship with G-d could only be servant-master but not lovers.

A religion of love must include other perspectives and experiences of G-d that counterbalance the surrendering/submissive implication in the Y HVH/A DONAI experience.

Experiencing G-d as EL OHIM
The name EL OHIM communicates the very opposite perspective indicated by Y HVH and A DONAI. The name EL OHIM is the only name mentioned in the story of creation. G-d is referred to as EL OHIM when He creates the world, divides the light from darkness, divides the upper waters from the lower waters, classifies the species of vegetation and animals according to their kind, commands them to be fruitful and multiply, and when He finally creates the first human being to be the epitome of uniqueness and individuality. Therefore, the name EL OHIM suggests that G-d is the source of multiplicity, diversification, distinction, demarcation, categorization and individualization. It is no wonder that the name EL OHIM itself is a Hebrew word conjugated in a plural form, suggesting the implicit pluralism this attribute of G-d engenders.

G-d as EL OHIM creates the world through the power of judgment, which establishes principles, laws, boundaries and borders. In fact, according to the Torah's description of the progressive creative process, each new creature exhibits greater characteristics of distinction, mobility, individuality, independence and freedom. The pinnacle of creation is achieved through the creation of a human being, a creature modeled in the very image of EL OHIM. G-d breathes into us the breath of life, giving of His very own life force — a Divine soul. The Kabbalah describes the soul as a spark of G-d — an aspect of G-d. From the perspective of EL OHIM we are dangerously empowered with the freedom to do other than G-d's will and the potential for great selfishness. We are so godlike that we too can achieve the powerful status of the title EL OHIM, as it is written: I said, "You are all EL OHIM, children of the Most High are you all." (7)

According to the oral tradition, (8) prior to our creation, G-d took counsel with the angels, asking whether or not He should proceed. The angels advised against such a risky act, predicting our thirst for power and rebellious nature. G-d, however, went ahead and risked it. We, in our apparent independence and freedom of choice, are the epitome of a "being" significantly other than G-d.

The name EL OHIM not only refers to G-d as a Creator, who creates through the attribute of judgment, but it also means that G-d is the Judge of our actions.

Therefore, the full message of EL OHIM is that we are created beings other than G-d, with distinct identities, endowed with free will. We can make significant choices, even rebellious ones contra to G-d's will, incurring real consequences. G-d relates to us and responds to our choices. He evaluates, judges and determines the consequences of our actions.

From the perspective of the name EL OHIM, we are far from the nothingness implicit in the name Y HVH. And we are far from the subordinate subservience implied by the name A DONAI. In fact, the Midrash states:


When G-d created man, the angels mistakenly wanted to praise him as "The Holy" (thinking he was G-d). (9)


When you experience G-d as EL OHIM, you feel extremely powerful. You know that in essence you are divine.

When you experience G-d as EL OHIM, but in a healthy way, you are self aware, confident and assertive. Created in the image of EL OHIM, you feel empowered — ambitious to take control and actualize your godly potential. You feel driven to reflect the absolute uniqueness of G-d and become a true individual. You are inspired to be proactive, masterful, resourceful and creative. You are constantly mindful of the power to choose and the ability to make things happen.

However, if you experience G-d as EL OHIM, but in an unhealthy extreme way, with no counterbalance from the Y HVH-A DONAI experience, then you will become self-absorbed, self-possessed, self-centered, self-indulgent, narcissistic, elitist, arrogant, aggressive, competitive, controlling, domineering, manipulative, deceptive, ruthless, violent, etc.. At the outer extreme of the EL OHIM experience is the belief in other gods and the desire to be a G-d. The name EL OHIM, independent of the name Y HVH, is the root of idolatry. In the Torah the idea of other gods is referred to as EL OHIM Acherim. (10)

A religion, exclusively based on experiencing G-d as EL OHIM, could not be a religion of love but only a religion of self-worship. It would inspire just the opposite to surrender, no-self, sub-ordinance or submission. Of-course, when you are so self-absorbed you can't achieve love. You feel no need for any one else in your life.

When you experience G-d as Y HVH, you are inspired to surrender your self. When you experience G-d as A DONAI you are inspired to be completely subservience. And when you experience G-d as EL OHIM you are inspired to be godly and eventually a god yourself. A religion of love must guide us towards a relationship with G-d as Y HVH/A DONAI, as well as a relationship with G-d as EL OHIM. Together they provide the essential balance necessary to protect us from the dangers inherent in the opposite extremes.

Imagine three people, Janice, Bob and Dan, standing at the foot of Mount Everest. This breathtaking site leaves Janice awestruck and speechless. Devastated by its enormity, she suddenly realizes that Mt. Everest is really only an infinitesimal fraction of the unfathomable vastness of the universe. Overwhelmed by the incredulous she realizes the futility of her categorizing mind. She is overcome with the desire to surrender delusions of her self-made importance. Her total nothingness becomes obvious in the face of reality. She uncontrollably urges to merge with the mysterious; melt back into the ineffable all. She has experienced the truth that there is nothing but Y HVH.

Upon sight of this masterful work of creation, Bob exclaims, "Oh, my Lord!" He feels humbled in the face of the Creator of the universe. Inspired to express His devotion to the Master of all he reaches for his Book of Psalms and recites an ancient classic praise to A DONAI. His heart fills with the desire to be like this mountain — a dedicated servant of G-d; serving to communicate G-d's glory to the world.

Dan, on the hand, has no patience for Janice's desire for quiet meditation or Bob's devotional prayers. "Man, oh, man!! We are goin' to conquer that baby!" He proudly affirms. When he sees Mount Everest he sees challenge and adventure; an opportunity to rise to great new heights. He's headed for the top and is ready to assert him self with clever navigation, brute strength, determination and persistence. The majestic radiance of Mount Everest only awakens within Bob the desire to express his own majestic grandeur. Attuned to the presence of EL OHIM within nature, Dan is driven to also find and express his own godliness.

Standing before Mount Everest Janice celebrates her no-self in the face of Y HVH — Ultimate Reality. Bob affirms devotional subservience to A DONAI — his LORD. And Dan commits to actualize his godly potential — EL OHIM. However, neither one of them experienced the joy of being in love — the truth of Y HVH/A DONAI EL OHIM

Experiencing G-d as Y HVH EL OHIM
According to Jewish tradition the full truth of G-d is experienced through a balanced life of assertiveness and surrender reflected in the mystical union of the two names Y HVH EL OHIM. This name combination communicates that G-d's oneness is the power of love — the religion of love.


               — For more on this topic see The Secret Life of G-d: Discovering the Divine Within You


(1) Exodus 6:2

(2) Nechemiah 9:6

(3) Nefesh HaChaim 3:11

(4) Exodus 3:15

(5) Talmud, Kiddushin 71a

(6) Yoma Chapter 3:7

(7) Psalms 82:6

(8) Genesis Rabbah 8:5

(9) Genesis Rabbah 8:10

(10) Exodus 20:3

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JWR contributor Rabbi David Aaron is the founder and dean of Isralight, an international organization with programming in Israel, New York South Florida, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Toronto. He has taught and inspired thousands of Jews who are seeking meaning in their lives and a positive connection to their Jewish roots.

He is the author of the newly released, The Secret Life of G-d, and Endless Light: The Ancient Path of Kabbalah to Love, Spiritual Growth and Personal Power , Seeing G-d and Love is my religion. (Click on links to purchase books. Sales help fund JWR.) He lives in the old City of Jerusalem with his wife and their seven children.



© 2005, Rabbi David Aaron